Sunday, February 17, 2008

Alberta's Election is Half Over - Not Much Has Happened - Yet!

The Alberta election exits Week 2 and it moves lethargically into week three. The missteps by the mainstream parties of the opening day are done and nothing can be done about them. The "big" stories last week were very weak to say the least. The PCs seem to be always on defence punching from their back foot. The Liberals are showing lots fancy footwork and jumping around a lot but not punching a lot. The NDs are pretty much out of the ring but they running around the outside apron trying to stir up the crowd. The Wildrose Alliance candidates are busy in their livingrooms crafting home made lawn signs. Midweek, the Greens were just 4 seats short of mounting a full slate of candidates...impressive.

The last week saw the headlines preoccupied with stories about partisan appointments of Deputy Returning Officers. The media coverage and the attention getting machinery of the various political parties obligingly “engaged” on the "issue." Bottom line – this is something that should have and could have been fixed before the election. FIXING THIS IS A NO BRAINER.

Political parties should be far removed from the suggestion and selection of DROs. There is a need for absolute - not relative - independence of those who run the election machinery on the ground. That choice of DRO staffers must be the sole and absolute discretion of the Chief Returning Officer. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is not a good enough response to say that there has not been a problem in the past so why is this an issue because there is no problem now.

Doing the right thing, in the right way, all the time...even when no one is what citizens ought to reasonably expect from political parties and their election procedures. Whose election is it anyway? Elections belong to citizens, not the political parties.

The current “recommendation” model for DROs is old style arcane power/patronage politics that is unacceptable and must go. We PCs have been way to slow to catch up to this issue and put it to bed. I can’t figure out why we are so far behind on it and so slow on getting past it. There are some really big ticket issues of long term significance that deserve attention in this election.

Why are we getting knocked off the puck and appering to be trying to sustain this past stupidity? Stelmach's move to establish all party legislative policy committees last year was a democratic reform that hard to do - and he did it. To cease and desist on appearances of political interference in the election procedures is an easy democratic reform. Get it done Ed!

This past week saw the union sponsored attack ads, under the pseudonym “Albertans for Change, get a big boost in the bucks. AUPE, the GOA staff union, ponies up a cool $300K to keep the campaign alive. I hear lots of grumbling in some labour circles that their unions have been pretty useless at representing the membership’s interests as of late. I wonder if the motivation behind this TV advertising spending against the PCs is as much about showing the union membership that their unions are actually doing something “for them.” Do the boys running the Alberta Building Trades Council think that playing politics with membership dues at election time is going to appease their membership for what many see as a lack of their union's effective performance? Not all union members vote against the PC Party so I can imagine this use of union dues for political attack ads will not be receiving unanimous membership support. At the polls nor in the union halls.

Can you imagine what the union friendly NDP and Brian Mason could have done with all that money being spent on an Ontario advertising agency and for the cost of the TV time too? It would have at least paid out the NDP debt, if nothing else. Brian Mason would likely have had to refuse it anyway because it would have been BIG money running politics again. That is something he has been on about last week in criticizing the big corporate money behind the PCs and the Alberta Liberals.

Week three is coming and I wonder what we will see. There are lots of surveys being circulated to candidates. I have seen those sent to PC candidates so far and I presume all parties are getting them. My post tomorrow will be on the good, the bad and the ugly about survey’s that have come in to date. I will comment on examples in each category. The source of the bad one so far is a surprise.